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Henkel’s Positive Climate Journey: From Store to C Suite – TriplePundit

With time running out to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and limit global warming to 1.5°C by mid-century, companies are ready to meet the urgency of the moment we find ourselves today. And stakeholders – from employees and customers to investors – now expect no less. Even as companies announce plans to pursue net greenhouse gas emissions, a select few go further by striving for climate positivity — meaning they save more emissions than they generate.

Among this group of companies shifting their business models toward climate-positive operations is Henkel, a global company that markets a wide range of well-known consumer and industrial brands including All and Persil laundry detergents, Dial personal care products, and Loctite adhesives.

So what does this push for climate positivity look like, and how are employees involved? To find out, TriplePundit spoke with Jillaine Dellis, vice president of sustainability, product safety and regulatory affairs for Henkel’s Laundry and Home Care division, and Paul Sambanis, director of sustainability and the environment for the company’s adhesives operations in North America.

Addressing emissions requires work from the supply chain, processes, and even consumers

In Dillis’ view, the shift toward a positive climate model begins in the furthest reaches of Henkel’s supply chain. Henkel developed its own goals About renewable raw materials with suppliers, including plans to shift from fossil fuel-based ingredients to more responsible and sustainable plant materials.

Change is also underway at the production points within Henkel’s Laundry and Home Care division. For example, the company has launched fully branded detergent products Ultra focusedThis reduces the amount of plastic packaging by about 60 percent. Then there are the initial energy savings on the consumer side: “All of our formulas and detergents are cold-water efficient, so this is one way to save on emissions,” Delice said.

Returning to Henkel’s operations, a focus on energy efficiency, water consumption and waste minimization also helps propel the company toward its positive climate goals. “Our sites are constantly developing new ideas and projects to boost efficiency and reduce emissions,” Sambanis told 3p. “To help standardize the process, we have certified more than half of the North American operating sites for ISO 50001 Energy Management System Standard. This has improved employee engagement and led to the development and implementation of energy efficiency projects.”

For example, at an adhesive plant in Warren, Michigan, a team added variable-frequency drives to its air compressors — which reduced the electricity consumption of an on-site compressor by 50 percent, Sampanis said.

All Concentrated Laundry Detergent - Sustainable Products for Climate Positive Business
Henkel’s new, brand-name detergent products are highly concentrated, reducing the amount of plastic packaging by about 60 percent. (Image via Henkel)

Acknowledge what is difficult

The journey toward becoming climate-positive or even net-zero is certainly challenging, often due to factors beyond the company’s control. For Sambanis and his team, one of the challenges to Henke’s positive climate plans is to develop alternatives to conventional thermal energy, which is central to the company’s ability to manufacture products from raw materials.

“In the United States, there is a lot of subsidy for the transition to electrification. The challenge is that most local utility providers’ electrical grids need upgrades before installing equipment that requires more electricity.” This requires additional costs and time to build from the outgoing local utility provider out of our control. If you look at alternatives, like biomass or biogas, the challenges are sourcing these fuels and making sure you have a proper supply chain.”

For Dillis and her colleagues in the laundry and home care division, limited control over what happens away from Henkel’s office and manufacturing plants is also a challenge. But consumer education and messaging could open more doors as the company continues on its path to becoming climate positive in its production. “Henkel works hard to share information with consumers to help them use these products effectively in order to contribute to net positivity,” she said. Simple everyday things that consumers can do can help: Don’t run the dishwasher when it’s not full, for example. Wash the clothes also in cold water. If consumers can think about these steps and change their habits, the effects could be significant.”

In terms of what it can control, Henkel is on track to reduce the use of fossil fuel-based plastic resin in packaging by 50 percent, while increasing the amount of post-consumer recycled content to 30 percent — and 100 percent of the company’s packaging. It will be recyclable by 2025. But again, these changes cannot happen in a vacuum: the components of consumer messaging and education are key. “In addition to our packaging goals, we believe it is important to inform consumers how to properly dispose of packaging, to promote a circular economy,” Delice said.

She added that broad industrial collaboration is also essential, particularly when it comes to rethinking how packaging is made, such as moving from multi-layer packaging to more streamlined single-layer packaging. “You can’t recycle multi-layer packaging,” Delice explained. “We hope the industry will continue to move toward single-layer packaging, and we hope the system catches up by switching to improved, recyclable packaging.”

Why a positive climate plan can be an effective employee engagement tool

For both Delices and Sambanes, a positive climate strategy is about more than reducing emissions, rethinking packaging and finding more sustainable sources of energy.

“When you look at our history, we developed a top-down and store-floor strategy,” Sambanis explained. “Because our in-store employees know the operations better than anyone else, they can provide valuable feedback and share their ideas with managers and CEOs. This balance helps us spend money smart when it comes to accelerating our progress in sustainability.”

Sambanes insisted that such a purchase is critical. Here’s his advice: “Make sure you have a roadmap with both upper management and shop floor support. Work on constantly getting suggestions from the workshop, as these ideas tend to be more creative and, in some cases, don’t require significant outlays.”

Dillis offered a similar perspective, along with a four-point plan that she said applies to any company, in any industry: “First, buying across the organization and executives is critical. Second, make sure your company sets specific goals. Third, cross-functional work, As net zero and climate positivity are not the responsibility of just one department or team.Finally, employee communication is important, because employees themselves are consumers.If you share goals and progress, the results not only build pride in the organization but can also engage employees where they are allowed to be part of the exchange of ideas.”

Bottom line, Delice explained the guidance for embarking on a positive climate journey in five words: “We all have this together.”

This article series is sponsored by Henkel North America and produced by the TriplePundit editorial team.

Image credits: Kampan/Adobe Stock and Henkel North America

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